Archive

  • HOW CUTE.

    HOW CUTE. Yes, it's all fun, folks, until somebody ends up with Kinky Friedman as their governor . Eccentric vanity campaigns are a luxury nobody can afford any more, which is why an admittedly brilliant media guy like Bill Hillsman shouldn't be running around Texas trying to get this clown elected. If there's a worse raison d'etre for a candidate in 2006 than one that combines the notion that Anyone Can Do It with the now-wholly-discredited Naderite philosophy of Not-A-Dime's-Worth-Of-Difference, I can't think of one. They're debating torture in the U.S. Congress, folks. Seriously. Eyes on the ball, please. Hillsman should be praised forever for being the initial driving force behind the political career of the late Paul Wellstone , and his work on behalf of Ned Lamont in Connecticut has been sparkling. But Ralph Nader 's legacy is an unspeakable one at this point. Governor Jesse Ventura turned out to be as ludicrous an experiment as the idiot football league for which he fronted,...
  • Reason to Worry About Falling Home Prices

    Now that the data are showing that home prices are falling, news reports are again citing statements from the experts who told us that home prices would never fall. According to these experts, house prices declines are no big deal after the extraordinary appreciation of the last decade. The data indicate otherwise. People have been borrowing against their homes at a rate of more than $700 billion a year. This borrowing has helped to sustain consumption in the wake of slow job growth and declining real wages. This borrowing explains the negative savings rate, a first since the beginning of the Great Depression. The problem with declining house prices is that it could quickly put an end to borrowing against home equity. The Fed reported that the ratio of equity to value was at a record low 54.1 percent last quarter. From the fifties through the eighties, this ratio was consistently in the high sixties. Coming after a decade of unprecedented price appreciation, this record low ratio is...
  • Real Free Trade: Importing Doctors

    Since many folks seem confused on the idea of free trade in doctors, let me make a few points that may help clarify the issue. First, we should think about trade in doctors like we think about trade in manufactured goods. When the Bush 1-Clinton administration wanted to increase trade in manufactured goods with Mexico, tariffs were not the issue. U.S. tariffs on Mexican manufactured goods were already very low (@2 percent, on average). The issue was setting up an institutional structure that guaranteed U.S. corporations security so that they could set up factories in Mexico without having to worry about expropriation, restrictions on repatriating profits, or other such concerns. The treaty also gave assurances that exports to the United States would not be blocked by future tariff or non-tariff barriers. With this in mind, free trade in physicians� services would mean setting up a set of transparent education and licensing standards (which would also have to be standardized across the...
  • HUNDTING CHINA. ...

    HUNDTING CHINA. Reed Hundt has a new book on China that's reached some rather radical conclusions. It seems to me his recommendations are a tad too influenced by his years researching, regulating, and admiring the Internet -- not all industries are comparable to the Net, nor would they all benefit from the same structure that encouraged the chaotic development of the Web -- but Reed's a bright guy and it's thought-provoking stuff . -- Ezra Klein
  • WHAT WOULD MURROW THINK?

    WHAT WOULD MURROW THINK? Are they trying to make Edward R. Murrow rise from the earth and bite off their faces? The Couric Experiment at CBS is a transparent nightly disaster, but Katie's interview with Condoleeza Rice on 60 Minutes last night makes her newscast look like See It Now . And just when you thought there were no depths of sycophancy and general fluffitude to which she could not dive, Couric suits up, climbs into the bathysphere, and descends into the realm of sightless fish on her new blog . They should just leave this stuff off the Internets and let Katie scrawl it on the cover of her History notebook during study hall. --Charles P. Pierce
  • NOW COMES IN...

    NOW COMES IN CRUEL AND STUPID. As a follow-up to the earlier post on Medicare's donut holes , an e-mail from Jon Cohn reminds me of the recent New England Journal of Medicine study that found Medicare plans with caps on drug benefits actually cost the system more money , as seniors would bow to financial pressures and cease taking their medicines, leading to emergencies that cost the system much more than covering the preventive medications would. As the NEJM concluded, "The savings in drug costs from the cap were offset by increases in the costs of hospitalization and emergency department care." So not only is the donut hole cruel policy, it's a verifiably stupid policy, and will cost far more money over the long haul than simply offering stable and expansive drug coverage. And none of this even gets into the absurd giveaways to Big Pharma and the insurance companies that make the program far more expensive than it need be. -- Ezra Klein
  • THE RATIO.

    THE RATIO. The scuffle between former President Clinton and Chris Wallace on FOX News Sunday was, in my rather biased opinion, at least a TKO if not a woodshed ass-whuppin� by Clinton. Like all conservatives, Wallace will now play the victim, because conservatives love to talk tough about social Darwinism and how gritty they are, but whine and moan like babies whenever somebody calls them on their crap. Now, of course, media conservatives will play the misdirection game, making a lot of fuss about Clinton�s demeanor, mood, finger-pointing, and other non-verbals, because they�d rather avoid responding to the, well, verbals: the assertions Clinton made about the withdrawal from Somalia emboldening Osama bin Laden ; the stark contrast in counter-terrorism efforts by his and the current administration, and so on. While they avoid discussing inconvenient facts -- like Clinton�s nicely articulated reminder to Wallace that the Bush team has dedicated only one-seventh the military manpower to...
  • MURDOCH'S CONSCIENCE MONEY.

    MURDOCH'S CONSCIENCE MONEY. Okay, Bill , you got in Chris Wallace 's stuff good and proper. (Wallace has been on my radar since he ran one of the most dishonest pieces of reportage I've ever seen over on ABC when he assaulted the Supplementary Security Income program based on fake data and spurious -- remember Crazy Checks? -- anecdotes. Of course, when Clinton signed the Welfare Reform and Re-Elect My Ass Act of 1996, SSI took a pretty big whack anyway, so there's karma all over the place here.) I wish you'd known that the phrase is "make your bones," and not "move your bones," but that was a "forget it, he's rolling" moment anyway. Here's what you can do now. You can call a public press conference today and announce (loudly) that you're sending back every nickel donated to your Clinton Global Initiative by Rupert Murdoch . It's what we used to call in the old Church "conscience money." The biggest crook in the parish always bought the most elaborate decoration for the church. If we...
  • ANOTHER RECRUIT. ...

    ANOTHER RECRUIT. It looks like Gary Hart has joined the legions of the shrill. If only the October Surprise scenario he lays out -- an attack on Iran � weren�t so plausible, or likely. -- Ezra Klein
  • WHEN DONUTS ATTACK....

    WHEN DONUTS ATTACK. Up till now, seniors have been mostly satisfied with the Medicare Drug Benefit. Bad bill though it is, it remains better than no bill at all, and since that was the comparison, approval ratings have remained high. Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations. Unfortunately for the Bush administration and the Republican Congress, that may be about to change. Millions of seniors are about to tumble into the donut hole, a coverage gap that extends (usually) from $2,250 to $3,600, at which point federal insurance kicks back in. Most seniors, as we already knew, were unaware of the gap. And this is what it looks like when they fall in it: Frances Acanfora, 65, had been paying $58 for a three-month supply of her five medications. But this month the retired school lunchroom aide learned that her next bill would be $1,294. She had entered the doughnut hole.[...] After talking to her doctor, Acanfora decided to temporarily stop taking a drug as part of her treatment for...

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